Rediscovered: Rejections (W)right Up to the End

You know that Brian Leno loves to jump in on new litcrit as it breaks here on the Mean Streets. And you know that above all the dude is a stone-cold, steely-eyed Autograph Hound.

All the ruminating in re: Farnsworth Wright getting fired from the editorial chair at Weird Tales caused Brian to go digging through binder after binder until he pulled the note seen above from the trove. He has it mostly because of the “initial signature” of Farnsworth Wright — the squiggly “FW” — not initialed just to speed things up but because Wright, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, had a hell of a hard time doing a full autograph.

And it’s on official Weird Tales stationery from the New York offices, which heightens the appeal.

The brief note consists of Wright rejecting a yarn submitted by Howard Wandrei. While most of Wright’s rep rests with the fiction that did make it into the pulp pages of Weird Tales, we now know much more about how many stories he rejected. Some he reconsidered and asked to see again. Some just stayed rejected. Robert E. Howard’s “The Frost-Giant Daughter,” and others. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Shunned House,” “At the Mountains of Madness,” and others. The list is extensive.

And some of us wonder what he may have rejected that stopped the potential careers of budding weird fiction writers. Wright is famous for using “first stories” by a large number of writers. Did they then send in second and third stories, only to have them rejected?

Never to be heard of again?

On December 29, 1939 he kept his run going, bouncing one of the Wandrei brothers. Farny would be fired from the magazine around March 1940 and died June 12 1940.

In all fairness to the old boy, in this period he did accept the first story that Fritz Leiber sold professionally, “The Automatic Pistol,” although the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser episode “Two Sought Adventure” beat it into print in the August 1939 issue of Unknown. Many so-called scholars don’t know that Wright might have claimed Fritz as a discovery. Since the story didn’t see print until the May 1940 issue of Weird Tales, some credit Wright’s successor at the helm, Dorothy McIlwraith, for the find.

A rep increasingly haunted by all the rejections.

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